By Narendra Maheshri
Asthma is a chronic disease characterized by inflammation of the lungs, wheezing, tightness in the chest and difficulty breathing. Asthmatics might suffer from chronic or persistent coughing as well as attacks triggered by any number of things, which can include allergens or stressors. Often, these attacks follow interludes of time that are symptom-free.
Most asthmatics use drugs to control their symptoms. The use of inhalers offers immediate relief during attacks though over-use can contribute to worsening of chronic asthma. Long-term control drugs like corticosteroids also work to keep the disease from progressing. People with asthma are advised to avoid known asthma triggers and to carry a rescue inhaler with them whenever possible.
How Can Yoga Help?
If drugs are the primary treatment option that doctors and patients use on asthma, there are still a variety of alternative or complementary therapies that can reduce symptoms. Many researchers and practitioners believe that yoga can relieve symptoms of asthma through a retraining of disturbed breathing patterns as well as an improved, more relaxed connection with the body.
Despite the fact that asthmatics must change their breathing patterns to reduce asthma symptoms, some yogis with asthma really struggle in certain pranayama exercises. Barbara Benagh, a yoga teacher suffering from asthma, explains that after a bout of pneumonia induced her chronic asthma, pranayama actually became a trigger for asthma attacks. She goes on to explain, however, that with much patience and persistent practice of breathing exercises, she was able to overcome many of her symptoms. One key factor in learning to overcome her triggers was focusing on breathing through her nose while at the same time trying not to over breathe, by which she means not exhaling too much carbon dioxide, which can alter the balance of the body. These ideas adhere to Buteyko’s method of reducing asthma symptoms by identifying and correcting chronic hyperventilation that can characterize asthmatics.
The practice of yoga also lends itself to a more complete self-awareness in addition to a more intense mind-body connection. Yoga practitioners that learn how to use breathing to alter an over-stimulated mental or emotional environment can also reduce asthma symptoms since some attacks are triggered by emotional or mental stimuli. Additionally, being more aware of their bodies through the practice of yoga can alert asthmatics early to potential attacks and allow them to take steps to avoid triggers or to head off the onset of symptoms.
© Copyright 2012 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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